Theosophy in Mandarin and the Xīn Yin of Buddha

What would be the translation of Theosophy in Mandarin and what is Xīn Yin?


The closest term phonetically to Dzyan is in Ancient (Middle) Chinese dʑjen, the ʑ sounding like zya, but it is also merely from the Sanskrit jñāna. The pronunciation of dʑjen is where we get the word Zen 禪, and Zen comes from Chan 禅, originating from jñāna and dhyāna. Dzyana, a transliteration, is pronounced without the final a, as common in the Northern speak of India; and though Dzyan sounds exactly like dʑjen, what would be the translation of Theosophy in Mandarin Chinese?

From Gr. theosophia θεοσοφία we get Theosophy. Theosophy in mandarin may be rendered shénzhìxué 證道學 or rather shénzhìlún 神智论 meaning Wisdom Doctrine, or Wisdom Tradition. The tian (heavens) doctrine of Kong Fuzi, or Heaven’s Wisdom is understood as the absolute principle, just as Sophia Σοφíα (wisdom) in the Gnostic doctrine.

Hence, we must keep in mind, by Theosophy is meant principally:

(a) the wisdom of the gods, and dzyan (a transliteration of dhyana pronounced ghyana in Sanskrit using Tibetan letters dzynana)

(b) the meditative awareness of Tiān, the complement of (地), wherein worlds and lives subsist.

A Theosophy in Asia site speaks of the notable Wŭ Tíngfāng 伍廷芳, or Dr. Wu Tingfang, a Chinese diplomat who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs. C. Jinarājadāsa credits him as being the author of the First Chinese Manual on Theosophy; and termed Theosophy zhèngdàoxué given in the pinyin as 證道學. Perhaps what is meant is 正道学?, which would have a meaning akin to Science of the Pure Path, Daoist Study. The TS was known as zhèngdàoxuéhui 證道學會 until 1972 in China; and is now inactive. Zhèngdàoxué may refer to something like Confucius’s ‘mean doctrine’ or daoic school; and is like another name for the Neo-Confucian Rationalistic School, Lǐxué 理学 (School of Principle) from Song dynasty to mid-Qing times, c. 1000-1750.

Perhaps, it was Wu’s rationale for the designation. The basis of Modern Theosophy in East Asia would perhaps not be seen by scholars as separate from what is known there, such as being called dàoxué 道學 or “Learning of the Way,” as indeed it is.

Let us use the generic shénzhìlún 神智论 in Mandarin, only for now.

Wu TingFang

H.P.B. related the term Dzyan (Dzan), Wisdom, or Mystic Meditation to Zen but also it simply means Jñāna. Emphasizing the term Dzyan brings recognition to the fact, theosophy, or the ‘great wisdom of heaven’ in a daoic sense, is principally founded on the “heart doctrine” (snying po’i don), or heart’s seal (xīn yin). More can be written on the link between Theosophy, Chinese, Mongolian, and Tibetan teachings and lore.

About the Xīn Yin of Chinese Buddhism

[Helena P. Blavatsky, The Doctrine of the Eye and the Doctrine of the Heart, or the Heart’s Seal, pp. 443-446]

“Prof. Albrecht Weber was right when he declared that the Northern Buddhists

Alone possess these [Buddhist] Scriptures complete. (The History of Indian Literature, trs. by John Mann and Theodor Zachariae, London: Trübner & Co., 1882, p. 288)

For, while the Southern Buddhists have no idea of the existence of an Esoteric Doctrine—enshrined like a pearl within the shell of every religion—the Chinese and the Tibetans have preserved numerous records of the fact. Degenerate, fallen as is now the Doctrine publicly preached by Gautama, it is yet preserved in those monasteries in China that are placed beyond the reach of visitors. And though for over two millennia every new “reformer,” taking something out of the original, has replaced it by some speculation of his own, still truth lingers even now among the masses. But it is only in the Trans-Himlayan fastnesses—loosely called Tibet—in the most inaccessible spots of desert and mountain, that the Esoteric “Good Law”—the “Heart’s Seal”—lives to the present day in all its pristine purity.

Was Emanuel Swedenborg wrong when he remarked of the forgotten, long-lost Word:

Seek for it in China; peradventure you may find it in Great Tartary. (See The Apocalypse Revealed, trs. from Latin by Rev. John Whitehead, Vol. I, ch. I, verse 4, note 11; p. 38 in the Standard Ed. of the American Swedenborg Foundation, New York, 1947.)

He had obtained this information, he tells his readers, from certain “Spirits,” who told him that they performed their worship according to this (lost) ancient Word. On this it was remarked in Isis Unveiled that Other students of occult Sciences have had more than the word of “certain spirits” to rely upon in this special case—they have seen the books that contain the “Word.”‡ Perchance the names of those “Spirits” who visited the great Swedish Theosophist were Eastern. The word of a man of such undeniable and recognized integrity, of one whose learning in Mathematics, Astronomy, the natural Sciences and Philosophy was far in advance of his age, cannot be trifled with or rejected as unceremoniously as if it were the statement of a modern Theosophist; further, he claimed to pass at will into that state when the Inner Self frees itself entirely from every physical sense, and lives and breathes in a world where every secret of Nature is an open book to the Soul-eye.* Unfortunately two-thirds of his public writings are also allegorical in one sense; and, as they have been accepted literally, criticism has not spared the great Swedish Seer any more than other Seers.

Having taken a panoramic view of the hidden Sciences and Magic with their Adepts in Europe, Eastern Initiates must now be mentioned. If the presence of Esotericism in the Sacred Scriptures of the West only now begins to be suspected, after nearly two thousand years of blind faith in their verbatim wisdom, the same may well be granted as to the Sacred Books of the East. Therefore neither the Indian nor the Buddhist system can be understood without a key, nor can the study of comparative religion become a “Science” until the symbols of every Religion yield their final secrets. At the best such a study will remain a loss of time, a playing at hide-and-seek.

On the authority of a Japanese Encyclopaedia, Rémusat (See p. 249: Foe-Koue Ki ou Relation des Royaumes Bouddhiques. . .by M. Abel Remusat. Paris, L’Imprimerie Royale, 1836.]) shows the Buddha, before His death, committing the secrets of His system to His disciple, Kâsyapa, to whom alone was entrusted the sacred keeping of the Esoteric interpretation. It is called in China Ching-fa-yin-Tsang (“the Mystery of the Eye of the Good Doctrine”). To any student of Buddhist Esotericism the term, “the Mystery of the “Eye,” would show the absence of any Esotericism. Had the word “Heart” stood in its place, then it would have meant what it now only professes to convey. The “Eye Doctrine” means dogma and dead-letter form, church ritualism intended for those who are content with exoteric formulae. The “Heart Doctrine,” or the “Heart’s Seal” (the Sin Yin) is the only real one. This may be found corroborated by Hiuen Tsang. In his translation of Mahâ-Prajñâ-Pâramitâ (Ta-poh-je-King), in one hundred and twenty volumes, it is stated that it was Buddha’s “favourite disciple Ananda,” who, after his great Master had gone into Nirvâna, was commissioned by Kâsyapa to promulgate “the Eye of the Doctrine,” the “Heart” of the Law having been left with the Arhats alone.

The essential difference that exists between the two—the “Eye” and the “Heart,” or the outward form and the hidden meaning, the cold metaphysics and the Divine Wisdom—is clearly demonstrated in several volumes on “Chinese Buddhism,” written by sundry missionaries. Having lived for years in China, they still know no more than they have learned from pretentious schools calling themselves esoteric, yet freely supplying the open enemies of their faith with professedly ancient manuscripts and esoteric works! This ludicrous contradiction between profession and practice has never, as it seems, struck any of the western and reverend historians of other people’s secret tenets. Thus many esoteric schools are mentioned in Chinese Buddhism by the Rev. Joseph Edkins, who believes quite sincerely that he has made “a minute examination” of the secret tenets of Buddhists whose works “were until lately inaccessible in their original form.” It really will not be saying too much to state at once that the genuine Esoteric literature is “inaccessible” to this day, and that the respectable gentleman who was inspired to state that

. . . it does not appear that there was any secret doctrine which those who knew it would not divulge,

made a great mistake if he ever believed in what he says on page 161 of his work. Let him know at once that all those Yu-luh (“Records of the Sayings”) of celebrated teachers are simply blinds, as complete—if not more so—than those in the Purânas of the Brâhmans. It is useless to enumerate an endless string of the finest Oriental scholars or to bring forward the researches of Rémusat, Burnouf, Koeppen, St. Hilaire, and St. Julian, who are credited with having exposed to view the ancient Hindu world, by revealing the sacred and secret books of Buddhism: the world that they reveal has never been veiled.”


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